how to help a cat in heat

Learn How to Help a Cat in Heat

If your cat is unspayed, you’ve likely dealt with her in heat before. Heat can be difficult for your cat and you, if you don’t know how to handle it properly!

For those with a female kitten, their first heat can come up quicker than you think. It’s best to be prepared ahead of time, so you’re not caught off guard.

Heat can be very uncomfortable for your cat, so it’s up to you, their loving owner and favorite person in the world, to help them as much as you can. Below, we’ll answer your top questions about cats in heat and what you can do to help your sweet kitty during her heat.

female cat in heat

When Do Female Cats First Go into Heat?

Typically, you can expect your female cat to go into her first heat around six months of age. Though some cats may take a little longer to reach this maturity, others may enter their first heat as young as four months old!

Knowing this timeline is incredibly important, especially if you have an intact male in or around your home. Once your cat starts her first heat, there’s the possibility of her becoming pregnant with a litter of kittens.

Not only will going from one cat to several be taxing on you, but a pregnancy that early can also be taxing on your young cat. Though female cats can get pregnant that young, it isn’t ideal.

Most experts say that female cats should be anywhere between 18 and 24 months old when breeding for the first time, so they have time to fully develop and get strong enough for a healthier pregnancy.

signs of a cat in heat

What are the Signs of a Cat in Heat?

It’s pretty obvious when your cat goes into heat for the most part, though it may be harder to tell in the beginning stages. Your cat’s behavior will change greatly when in heat, so keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Louder, more frequent meowing

  • More aggressive affection and rubbing

  • Attention-seeking behaviors

  • Rolling on the floor

  • Excessive grooming (especially of the genitals)

  • Loss of appetite

  • Frequent urinating or spraying

  • Pacing back and forth

  • Attempts to escape the house

  • Displays of lordosis (mating position)

The loud howling, yowling, and meowing you may hear is your cat’s attempt at a mating call. This will happen pretty frequently throughout your cat’s heat as she seeks a mate. She may also become more affectionate with you, seeking comfort during such a stressful time.

You’ll also likely notice excessive grooming, especially around her genitals. This is often a way to self-soothe, as well as a way to clean after increased urinating and spraying.

Make sure you keep an eye on your cat during this time. Female cats in heat are known to become escape artists in their attempt to find a potential suitor, so close doors quickly behind you and ensure she can’t escape out of any open windows.

do cats have periods?

Do Cats Have Periods?

Compared to human periods, no cats don’t have real “periods.” However, they do definitely have a full menstrual cycle. Some veterinarians consider heat as a cat’s “period,” since that’s the high point of their cycle.

Typically, female cats don’t bleed in heat like humans do during their period. They might shed a tiny bit of blood, but this is nothing to be concerned about. That’s because cats absorb their uterine lining during their cycle, unlike humans, who shed their uterine lining. However, this absorption process can still sometimes result in a bit of blood shedding.

cat in pain

Are Cats in Pain When They’re in Heat?

Though it may seem like your cat is in pain, what with all their yelling during their heat, cats generally aren’t in much pain during this process. However, they do likely feel discomfort or stress during this time.

Unlike humans, cats don’t really experience cramps or bloating during their menstrual cycle, but they may display irritation and discomfort through their attitude and behaviors, such as frequent grooming of their genitals.

So, while they aren’t in terrible pain, it’s still not a fun time for them. Be sure to show them lots of love in the meantime.

heat cycle in cats

What Triggers the Heat Cycle in Cats?

Did you know that your cat’s hormonal cycle is regulated by light? In outdoor cats, their cycle is regulated by sunlight, which changes throughout the seasons. When the days become shorter in the winter, for example, outdoor cats are less likely to go into heat.

For indoor cats, however, artificial lighting can mess with this cycle. This means your indoor cat can go into heat really any time of year. Though unfortunate, most indoor cats do end up developing some sort of regular cycle based on their exposure to light indoors.

Beyond light, temperature and access to a potential mate could also speed up the process. Pheromones are strong in cats, and the scent of a potential mate can sometimes induce a heat cycle. The combination of all of these factors really determines the likeliness of your cat starting their menstrual cycle.

Once your cat has gotten her first heat, she will get them every 2 to 3 weeks on average until she is either spayed or pregnant.

length of heat cycle

How Long Does Heat Last in Cats?

On average, you can expect your cat’s heat to last anywhere between 7 and 10 days. In some cats, though, this may be much longer. Typically 14 to 21 days will pass outside of heat before the next cycle begins.

Because your cat will be in heat for several days, it’s important to keep an eye on her and make sure she has everything she needs to be comfortable.

male cat reaction to heat

How Do Male Cats React to Female Cats in Heat?

How a male cat reacts to a female cat in heat depends on whether they are neutered or not. Generally, intact male cats will have much stronger reactions to female cats in heat. Because they can smell her pheromones, they will be attracted to her and try to mate with her.

If you separate your intact male from a female in heat, you may witness him yowling back at her or becoming more affectionate. They may also become anxious as they can’t access the female in heat. Keep this behavior in mind as you navigate having two intact animals in the home.

For those with neutered males, the reaction will be much less severe (and sometimes, not there at all!). Neutered males don’t have the instinctual drive to act on the pheromones of a female cat in heat, so they often won’t attempt to mate with them. However, they may still try to groom them and otherwise show affection.

In some rare cases, a neutered male may try to “hump” a female in heat, without fully mating with her. If you notice this behavior between your cats, keep an eye on the situation and separate your female if she becomes more anxious.

way to help cats in heat

7 Ways to Help a Cat in Heat

For those not planning to spay their cat, you’ll want to know how to calm your cat during her heat. After all, they last for 7-10 days and come every 2-3 weeks, so they spend quite a lot of time in heat during their lives!

Here are 7 ways of how to help a cat in heat…

1. Give Her Some Space

While your female cat might become more affectionate during her heat, she may also want more of her own space at times. Be sure that she has an area to herself where she can hide away and avoid other people and animals if needed. If she seems stressed or aggressive, don’t take it personally, just give her some time to calm down before trying to play with her again!

2. Provide Extra Toys

Some female cats need to burn off extra energy during their heat! If this applies to your cat, be sure to provide her with some extra toys to burn off some steam. You can also play with her directly with dangling toys or laser pointers, depending on the types of play she enjoys.

3. Give Extra Pets and Brushes

As mentioned previously, female cats in heat often become much more affectionate. Take some time to give your cat some extra love through pets and brushing sessions. This affection can help calm her and help her feel more comfortable as she relaxes.

4. Play Calming Music

This is a must for some kitties! Some cats respond very well to calming music. Try to find a playlist on YouTube or Spotify for cats or pets in general that might help soothe her. When in doubt, classical music tends to be a good choice.

5. Try Pheromones, Catnip, or Other Home Remedies

There are a lot of different home remedies people try on cats in heat, such as home supplements. Some pet owners swear by these supplements, whether they’re used in their cat’s food or rubbed into their skin. Never give any supplements to your cat before speaking with your veterinarian first, though.

One favorite home remedy is catnip! While some cats become more excitable from catnip, others tend to chill out. For female kitties that tend to take a snooze after playing with a catnip toy, try offering some during her heat.

Finally, you can also try pheromone sprays or plug-ins in your home. While these don’t always work for every cat, some cat owners rely on them to keep their female cats calm during their heat.

6. Keep Her Space Extra-Clean

Female cats in heat tend to be more sensitive to stimuli, including smells. Be sure to keep areas like her bed and litter box extra clean during her heat, especially since she may urinate and spray more frequently. A smelly litter box will only make her more stressed, so keeping it clean is a great way to keep her spirits high.

7. Keep Her Bed Warm

If there’s one thing cats and humans have in common, it’s wanting to feel warm and cozy. Just like some humans, cats in heat love to snuggle on warm objects to keep them comfortable. Try to prop up a covered heating pad for them to sleep on, or invest in a heated cat bed. This will definitely help keep your kitty relaxed and happy.

reasons to spay cats

Should I Spay My Cat?

While this is often a personal choice, in most cases, yes, you should spay your cat. The only exceptions to this are people with purebreds wanting to breed their cats for shows and bloodlines.

If you’re just planning to keep Fluffy as a housecat, it’s highly recommended to spay her. Not only will she not have to endure the stress and discomfort of regular heats, but you also don’t have to worry about accidental pregnancy if she were to escape!

Plus, spaying your cat eliminates the chances of uterine and ovarian cancers in your cat, and also reduces the chance of breast cancer due to decreased hormones. So, it’s for the best to spay your cat if you don’t actually have any plans to breed her.

Final Thoughts

Heat is a natural part of your cat’s reproductive cycle, but that doesn’t mean it has to be miserable. Do what you can to make her environment more comfortable so she can get through it as safely and pleasantly as she can.

From extra affection to a warm bed, there’s clearly a lot that can be done to make them a little bit happier!

While you’re here, be sure to check out our article on cat behaviors explained to learn more about why your cat does all the weird stuff it does!

Thanks to Lex Leigh for This Article!

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